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The Science of Star Wars
Jeanne Cavelos
St. Martin's Press, 256 pages


Scott Levine
The Science of Star Wars
Jeanne Cavelos
Jeanne Cavelos was an astrophysicist and mathematician, teaching astronomy at Michigan State University and Cornell University, and working in the Astronaut Training Division at NASA's Johnson Space Centre. She moved on to publishing, becoming a senior editor at Dell Publishing. She created and launched the Abyss imprint, winning the World Fantasy Award. She was also in charge of their science fiction/fantasy publishing program. Cavelos left New York in 1994 to pursue her own writing career and do freelance editing. She is a regular book reviewer for Realms of Fantasy magazine.

Jeanne Cavelos Website
ISFDB Bibliography
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jonathan Fesmire

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We can accurately classify The Star Wars Saga as Epic Science Fantasy. With its galactic travel, droids, space ships, and blasters, it is clearly science fiction, yet it also has The Force, a sort of magic. In Star Wars: A New Hope, one Imperial calls Vader's belief in the force, a religion, and speaks of his "sorcerous ways."

Even the scientific aspects of Star Wars are fantastic and far-fetched. Or so I had thought before I read Jeanne Cavelos' The Science of Star Wars.

Cavelos explains that when Star Wars: A New Hope came out in 1977, concepts like faster than light travel, alien life, and even planets around distant stars, seemed highly unlikely. Many top scientists believed that life was a fluke, unique to Earth. They had not detected planets in any other star systems. Relativity prohibited anything travelling faster than the speed of light.

I'm glad that it's 1999, and scientists have changed their minds. Cavelos says that science is finally catching up to George Lucas and Star Wars. She explains how, taking one major topic at a time. The book is divided into five sections: Planetary Environments, Aliens, Droids, Spaceships and Weapons, and The Force.

For us to get to the technological level of the Star Wars galaxy would take incredible amounts of power, and Cavelos gives theories about just how we might access this energy. Are laser guns possible? Sure, with access to enough energy. What about lightsabers? Unlikely, but possible, if the blades are made of plasma encased in a magnetic field, and not of light. Faster than light travel is also theoretically possible, by bending space.

The droids, R2-D2 and C3PO not only can think, but they have emotions. Would this be desirable in a robot? Cavelos argues that it would, and that robots with emotions would not only relate to humans better, they would make better, and quicker, decisions. You may think that we're very far away from creating emotional machines, but Cavelos talks about a software program called Creatures, a very sophisticated AI in which the user breeds virtual creatures based on a new science called Cyberbiology. There's even a real debate about whether the creatures are alive! If this can exist on current PCs, then I think we can't be too far off from much more sophisticated robots.

Are such things as telepathy or telekinesis possible through the use of something like The Force? I'll let you read the book and learn that one for yourself.

In reading The Science of Star Wars, I learned quite a lot about Physics, all within a Star Wars context. If you enjoy science, Star Wars, or both, then this is a fun read.

Copyright © 1999 by Jonathan Fesmire

Jonathan Fesmire has travelled to France, Germany, Estonia, Finland, and Ireland. He enjoys speaking French and learning bits of other foreign languages, but most of all, he loves writing, and has sold fiction to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, SpaceWays Weekly, Jackhammer, and others.


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